Coronavirus in Tennessee: Knox County reports 51st death, Health Department explains school contact tracing, 24-day quarantine

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Despite the lowest one-day, new case count in two weeks on Tuesday, Knox County reported another COVID-19 death.

The Knox County Health Department reported one new death and 54 new cases, a 0.99% increase in the total case count. Health officials also reported 129 new recoveries.

The 54 new cases mark the smallest single-day increase in the total case count since Aug. 4.

Of the 51 deaths in Knox County, 46 have occurred since July 2.

There are now 2,251 active cases in Knox County, down from 2,318 on Monday.

Of the 5,483 total confirmed cases reported in Knox County since the pandemic began, 236 of them have resulted in hospitalization at any point during the illness. There are 38 county patients currently hospitalized.

The number of recoveries is at 3,384. Recovered cases refer to those who have been released from isolation after 10 days from their onset of symptoms, plus 24 hours of being symptom-free. Recovered does not mean necessarily the person had to be hospitalized.

Knox County Health Department lists 203 probable cases of COVID-19 on the county website.

KCHD updates its numbers daily at 11 a.m. Visit covid.knoxcountytn.gov for more information. Press briefings by Knox County Health Department have been moved to a Tuesday and Thursday schedule this week. Briefings begin at noon.

School COVID-19 contact tracing

The Knox County Health Department and Knox County Schools have teamed up on the assignment of contact tracing this fall.

KCHD Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said the department and the schools are splitting COVID-19 contact tracing duties before compiling the data into the daily county updates. The school numbers will not be broken out into a separate set of data.

KCS will do all contact tracing inside the schools between teachers, staff, and students. KCHD will focus on the case’s outside-of-school contacts.

Case monitoring is being done at the state level by the Department of Health to free up county staff, Buchanan said.

“Our schools have created thoughtful plans but it is up to students, teachers and parents to ensure the five core actions are being followed everywhere, even outside the school and even in the home,” she said. “By also following the five core actions everywhere outside the school, it will reduce the likelihood of bringing the virus into the school or back to your home.”

Buchanan said students, parents and teachers, as well as all employers and employees, need to remember that the virus isn’t selective.

“No matter where we work, no matter where we play, we’re all at risk for COVID. COVID doesn’t just go to work places. COVID is all throughout our community.”

Dr. Martha Buchanan, Director of the Knox County Health Department

Buchanan gave the example of pumping gas as a time to be alert and not let your guard down. Pump handles and buttons should be wiped down and masks should be worn if you go into a convenience store.

Quarantine guidance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Tennessee Department of Health are asking close contacts of positive cases and residents with a positive case to follow a 24-day minimum quarantine.

The quarantine period is derived from the incubation period of the virus and the duration of the case’s fight of COVID-19.

“The person that lives in the home with them, if they can’t leave the home, their 14-day quarantine starts when the case is out of isolation,” Buchanan said. “So that could be 24 days. There are lot of variables there.”

Cases can be deemed recovered when they have been released from isolation after 10 days from their onset of symptoms, plus 24 hours of being symptom-free.

The 24-day quarantine needs to be followed by all cases and close contacts in the county. Buchanan said if the positive COVID-19 case can isolate themselves in a residence away from other individuals in the home, that 24-day quarantine could be shorter.

“Day of quarantine, day one, starts the first day after they had contact with that person,” she said.

Declaring teachers essential personnel

Gov. Bill Lee is still debating whether to make teachers essential personnel, which would require them to come to work

if they are positive for COVID-19 and asymptomatic.

Essential workers — hospital staff, police and fire department staff, restaurant workers, and certain store employees, among others — have been on the job since the beginning of the epidemic with guidelines in place.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases are never allowed to work while infectious, regardless of whether or not they are considered essential.

Essential workers who are contacts to a case, but not a case themselves and do not have any COVID symptoms, may return to work. However, if they develop symptoms, they should stay home and will be treated as a probable case.

“For an essential worker to return to work, they have to follow guidelines,” Buchanan said. “They have to wear a mask the whole time. The moment they have symptoms, they go home. It’s a method that been used in further industries without causing further outbreaks so we think it is an effective measure.”

Testing location changes

A prior commitment to the Jacobs Building is changing next week’s KCHD testing location and schedule. The Health Department will still test Wednesday and Friday this week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Jacobs Building.

Next week only, the Health Department will test from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the Halls Senior Center, 4405 Crippen Road.

The department is no longer taking insurance information so wait times should be shorter, Buchanan said. KCHD offers COVID-19 testing free of charge but was taking insurance information to offset cost.

Notes

  • The latest deaths in Knox County were a 74-year-old female and a 66-year-old female.
  • Buchanan said that Knox County is still not halfway in defeating the virus. “We still are kinda moving up that hill. We’ve slowed down; that’s great but we’re not seeing our cases go down. We did have that one little dip, which was kind of like a false flat. …We’re still climbing.”
  • While the CDC is evaluating some masks and their effectiveness against the virus, Buchanan said the national public health institute still says any kind of mask that covers the nose and mouth is better than none at all.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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